Welcome to Week 5, and Thing 6, which is all about online (or social) networks and communities. These have completely revolutionised how we network and make connections with others. If you've already completed Thing 4, and joined Twitter, congratulations! That's an online network too.
If you're not sure about what online (or social) networking actually is, or what it entails, go over to YouTube and take a look at this brief introductory video. It's from 2007, making it positively prehistoric in online networking terms, but it does hit all the main points!
There are so many online networks out there. They fulfil different purposes, they have different raison d’êtres, and they attract all kinds of people with common interests and goals. Selecting just a few for Thing 6 was pretty difficult! So what we're going to do is look at the two 'big wigs' of the online networking world, that's LinkedIn and Facebook, both of which have become pretty much synonymous with online networking, and both of which are well-known and established. And then we're going to look at three other online networks (LISNPN, LATnetwork and CILIP communities) which have been designed specifically for librarians and information professionals. The list is absolutely and in no way at all definitive or comprehensive, and you don't have to explore all of them. Also, if there are others that you use or recommend, please feel free to blog about those instead!
Why network online?
There are lots of advantages to engaging in professional online networking, but I think that, in general, they all fall under one or more of the following three headings:
- Becoming better known, and more visible in your fields of interest and expertise, by joining in with conversations and sharing information.
- Becoming better connected, with people whom you might otherwise never actually get to meet.
- Becoming better equipped, gaining knowledge and information from others, and staying up to date with the trends and ideas in your profession.
But before we get going, a quick word of advice! Please note that it's really, absolutely and completely NOT necessary for you to sign up to any, or all, of these online networks. If you're not a member of them, and would like to keep it that way, that's perfectly fine.
LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network, with over 100 million members. There are lots of librarians and information professionals using LinkedIn, and it's an excellent way of building and organising your professional relationships. And, importantly, bearing Thing 3 in mind, LinkedIn profiles tend to rise to the top in Google searches, so a well-maintained and constructed profile can be a really beneficial tool for the development of your online brand. LinkedIn can be a useful way to introduce others to your professional experience and expertise.
Although you'll need a LinkedIn account to explore it fully, it is possible to have a look at some profiles and see how it could be used. To do this, go to the home page, and type a name into the boxes that say 'Search for someone by name'. This will let you see the kind of information that people put onto their profiles. I asked my Twitter followers if any of them had full, exciting or sexy profile pages, and couple of people volunteered their profiles, which are all great examples of best practice:
Getting an account on LinkedIn is very straightforward. You can easily register from the home page, and for more guidance, take a look at this video. As it's a professional network, you'll probably want your profile to match your CV or resume, so make sure that the photograph you use is suitable and that the tagline is appropriate. And then you can begin to make connections with people in your networks and with other librarians and information professionals!
One of the most useful features of LinkedIn is the groups, which are, unfortunately, only accessible to members of LinkedIn. These are a good way to expand your network and connect with other professionals based on common interests or goals. Obviously, the first group you'll want to join is the 23 Things for Professional Development group! To do this, go to the 'Groups' tab, and search for '23 Things', then click 'Join' to become a member. If you like, explore other groups too. Here are some relevant ones:
- Sue Hill Recruitment Network
- Special Libraries Association
There is plenty of advice online about how to use LinkedIn successfully, and how to get the most out of your membership (see, for example, Sharlyn Lauby's articles on optimising your profile, here). And if you like, take a look at this article by Charlie White, packed full of infographics: How are people really using LinkedIn?
The world's leading social network, with over 900 million members, Facebook is most popularly used to socialise with friends and family, and to share news and photos. Most people wouldn't think about using Facebook in a professional capacity. However, it has become a powerful marketing tool and an excellent way to build more professional relationships. After all, there are 900 million people out there to build them with!
While individuals on Facebook have 'profiles', to which they add personal information, organisations and institutions have 'pages', which can have multiple owners and have a slightly different functionality. (There are also 'groups', but the less said about those, the better). Your primary concern will clearly be to become a fan of 23 Things for Professional Development! To find our fan page, simply do a search for us in the box at the top, and then click 'Like' to become a fan. This means that information posted on this fan page will appear in your news feed on your Facebook home page.
Other pages (all of which can be viewed, with or without Facebook membership) that you might be interested in are:
And then three more, just for librarians and info pros:
|Image from LISNPN|
LISNPN is an online network for new professionals in the library and information sector. Anyone in the sector can join the network, and at the moment there are over 900 members from 34 countries! You definitely don't have to have a professional qualification, you definitely don't have to be young, and the definition of 'new' that is employed by LISNPN is very loose indeed! So although the network is designed for prople who have joined the profession in the last decade or so, more experienced professionals are also very welcome.
LISNPN has all kinds of stuff on it, and it's really member-driven, so if there's anything that network members want to see, they can make it happen. It includes forums and blog posts, interviews, resources and reviews, and there have been (face-to-face!) meet ups and a brilliant advocacy competition since the site was launched just over a year ago. To find out more, check out this blog post by Ned Potter (aka @theREALwikiman) about the future of LISNPN.
It's a very friendly, and very user-friendly site, so to sign up, just enter your email address and password in the boxes to the left of the page, and follow the instructions. You'll get a profile with a picture and space for a brief biography, and there's also the opportunity to add 'friends'. Once your profile is up and running, go to the "Just joined LISNPN?" thread on the message board, and introduce yourself!
|Image from Teachers Monthly.|
The LAT network was set up in order to offer support to librarians and information professionals who do a lot of teaching as part of their jobs, and/or for those who are taking formal teaching qualifications. Its key aims are to gather and pool knowledge and expertise, and to provide a space to share ideas and thoughts. For more information about the site's origins and purposes, have a look at this blog post from one of the founders, Johanna Anderson (aka @Jo_Bo_Anderson).
The site includes lots of information, about upcoming events, advice on organising (lib)TeachMeets and there's a forum which includes threads on book recommendations and just general teaching ideas. It's also really easy to sign up and get a profile: just click 'Register' and enter your details there.
CILIP communities is an online network for all librarians and information professionals to share information and make connections with each other. Although a lot of the content is restricted to people who are CILIP members, there is a great deal of material on there which is open access, including links to the whole CILIP blog landscape. And just FYI: CILIP stands for Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, and it's a UK-based library association.
If you are a CILIP member, it's very easy to sign up, to get a profile and then add contacts. In the top right hand corner of the screen, there's a 'Log In' link, which takes you through to the registration page. If you're not a CILIP member, then you can sign up with a Guest account, and this will allow you to take part in discussions on the forums, and to organise and coordinate the information you receive from CILIP.
And if you're a member of another country's library association, have a look to see if they have any equivalent communities or forums.
What to do now!
To complete this Thing, blog about your experiences with these sites. Which do you think are the most useful, and why? If you already use these sites, how do you use them, and what have you got out of them? If you don't want to use sites like these for online networking, why not? And do you agree with the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, when he said: "Facebook is the backyard BBQ; LinkedIn is the office"? Do you think that sites like Google+ and Pinterest offer added value for social networking?